Plans by Wirral Council to shake up car parking have taken their next step.
Councillors on an environment and transport committee unanimously agreed to move to the next stage in developing a parking strategy. The strategy will now go out to another public consultation to get feedback on some new proposals put forward.
This includes the introduction of “smart mobility hubs” featuring e-bikes and scooters, charges for workplace car parks, more controlled parking zones, as well as new tariffs for car parks.
A report commissioned by the council said adjusting car park tariffs could raise £1.9m for the council.
The proposals, which are being introduced in three stages, are intended to help the council achieve its climate change targets but could also see £15.4m every year generated by the changes.
The issue of car park charges has been controversial since they were first proposed in October 2020. The proposal then was to introduce charges at free car parks but this faced significant opposition with around 4,000 objections and comments in a consultation done in December 2021.
The charges were due to be considered at a June 2022 committee but this was delayed after the council received a legal letter over the plans. It was then resolved the charges as well as a wider parking strategy would be considered by councillors at a later date.
Commenting on the strategy, committee chair Cllr Liz Grey said, “It’s such a habit for us to get into our cars we forget we could walk, we could cycle, we could bus and these things have to go hand in hand. We can’t make one more difficult without making the other more acceptable and attractive.”
She added, “I do think it always seems to go back to communications and getting the clear message across about how important it is we do things but also the benefits. People are not seeing the benefits of what we are trying to do.”
It was also confirmed charges to retail car parks could be part of the new strategy after Cllr Jason Walsh pointed to free out-of-town retail parks which he said “are the things that have killed local town centres.”
He added, “This isn’t just about making more money from car parks, it’s about making a whole plethora of benefits that could be gleaned from it including fairer parking here.
“We don’t ask people without gardens to pay for the brown bins so why should people who don’t have a car pay for people to park? That’s what we’re currently doing by providing free car parks.”
In a consultation done in 2022, 60.3% of people disagreed with car parking charges but 45% supported limiting how long you can park on a street. However, a significant majority felt a parking plan would help improve Wirral’s economy.
Liberal Democrat councillor Allan Brame asked about the potential impact of paid parking on town centres. People in the most recent public consultation also felt the new charges would keep people away from town and tourist areas but Royal HaskoningDHV, a consultancy firm, said evidence showed this would not be the case.
Royal HaskoningDHV said, “Before and after surveys often show increased commercial turnover as parking charges encourage more parking turnover and hence more footfall through an area. The result is that demand management encourages more spending, not less.”
Cllr Brame said, “The public generally feel they don’t agree with that. They certainly feel car parking charges have a detrimental impact on the local shopping areas and I think we’ve certainly got a battle to convince people they do want to pay parking charges.”
Image: Gunsite carpark, Leasowe, where charges were previously proposed. Credit: GOOGLE